updated 2/11/2013 12:36:54 PM ET 2013-02-11T17:36:54

HARDBALL
February 6, 2013

Guests: Michael Crowley, Lizz Winstead, Lauren Ashburn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: War on drones.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Just a day before the president`s chief
counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, heads to Capitol Hill for his
confirmation hearing to take over the CIA, the White House has to answer
some tough questions about its overseas drone program.

The catalyst is a leaked White House memo obtained by NBC`s Michael Isikoff
that justifies, in certain cases, attacks on American citizens abroad. The
White House has forced (SIC) strong criticisms from human rights and civil
liberties advocates over its drone policy. Senator Ron Wyden tweeted
today, "Every American has the right to know when their government believes
that it is allowed to kill them."

What seems to be surprising a lot people is just how much most Americans
seem to casually accept this as the cost of doing business in a dangerous
world.

Eugene Robinson`s a columnist for "The Washington Post" and David Corn is
Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." Both are MSNBC political
analysts.

Gentlemen, let`s take a look here at -- at Carney -- he`s, of course, the
president`s spokesman -- talking about this. It was a briefing today, and
Carney defended the president`s position on drones but also faced some
tough questions.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I won`t talk about specific
instances, but the fact is that the methods that we use are designed
specifically to avoid civilian casualties. I think it`s fair to say that
far fewer civilians lose their lives in an effort to go after senior
leadership in al Qaeda along the lines that we were discussing here, as
opposed to an effort to invade a country with hundreds of thousands of
troops and take cities and towns.

ED HENRY, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Why are you dancing around the question of
whether or not we kill civilians? Why won`t the government at least admit
that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARNEY: I don`t think that I`m dancing around it. I didn`t dispute it.

HENRY: (INAUDIBLE) you said (INAUDIBLE) necessarily...

CARNEY: Well, I`m just not going to -- what I can`t do or what I`m not...

HENRY: (INAUDIBLE) killed, right?

CARNEY: I don`t disagree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, Gene, you`ve written about this. You were briefed today by
a high-level officials, so you`re on the inside of their thinking. What
are they saying besides that about why we have to use drones?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first
of all, that people ought to be asking questions, that this -- because this
is a change. This is the way it is now and not the way it used to be.

And they say, Look, we have to do counterterrorism. We didn`t ask to, but
we have to. We`ve come very close to some serious attacks. And the
capabilities of drones now are such that this is our best weapon. So they
think they absolutely have to use drones.

But there are a lot of questions that ought to be asked. And one of them
is, Should there be some sort of judicial oversight, something like the
FISA court...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... or something...

MATTHEWS: But doesn`t that just throw the hot potato to another individual
who would have to make judgment, and that person would be appointed, as
well?

ROBINSON: Well, but especially when we`re talking about a U.S. citizen, I
think it`s not unreasonable to say -- and it would be my opinion -- that
there ought to be another set of eyes on it.

MATTHEWS: OK...

ROBINSON: And of course it`s at the White House. You can convince
yourself of a lot of things.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, I understand it. So look, here`s the question. It seems we
have a number of -- we have a limited arsenal of what we can do. We find
out that somewhere in a place, somewhere in Yemen or somewhere in Saudi,
somewhere in the world, Pakistan, for example, we understand that there`s
an activity that`s basically a group of people putting together a plan to
attack us.

We have three means of stopping that. We can use the drones, which are
amazing. We can use a SEAL team attack. Men go in and attack and kill a
bunch of people and then leave by helicopters, I guess. Or we can invade
the country and go to war. It seems to me you got to make a judgment. Or
you do nothing.

And I don`t know anybody in either political party of any persuasion that
down the road will be able to stand up and say, I knew we had the enemy
attacking us, I knew they were planning stuff, I knew who they were, I
refused to act because I was squeamish about some of these concerns, and I
decided to do nothing.

So in the end, you have to choose.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes, but...

MATTHEWS: You have to choose something to do.

CORN: This week particularly, we`re rolling a couple of different issues
together. There`s the issue of whether you Congress use a drone to attack
an American civilian. That`s what the memo was all about yesterday that
our pal Mike Isikoff revealed. Then there`s the whole...

MATTHEWS: Where are you on that?

CORN: I thought the memo did not make a strong enough case in terms of
what it said about imminence and about there being -- as long as there`s
one informed high-level official -- that`s not good enough. I`m with Gene.
You got to have some oversight...

MATTHEWS: What about the principle?

CORN: ... to review...

MATTHEWS: Do we have the right to kill a person who`s decided to be a
turncoat against their country? Do we have the right?

CORN: I think if you find someone who is operationally involved in
terrorist activity or a terrorist group that is, indeed, active and has the
ability to strike the United States, yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: But I believe that it`s a pretty high standard, but yes...

MATTHEWS: In other words...

CORN: ... you can.

MATTHEWS: ... a soldier on the other side.

CORN: Yes, someone who`s -- not someone who`s just a propagandist, but
someone who is involved in some operational way...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... running a radio station or a blog site somewhere in the
world, who`s putting out anti-American attitudes, you can`t kill them.

CORN: No, but...

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with this? Are you worried -- on the issue of
principle, did we have the right to kill Benedict Arnolds?

ROBINSON: Yes. Yes. Sure. I mean, and look, the case in point is Awlaki
in Yemen, the American citizen...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... who was planning attacks, who had plotted at least a couple
that we know of, very active. High ranking in al Qaeda. And we killed him
with a drone. And so I shed no tears for him, and I think nobody else
does. And the fact that he`s an American citizen...

CORN: But -- but...

ROBINSON: ... doesn`t bother me. What does bother me a bit, though, is
that there`s no structure. There`s no process that goes beyond the...

MATTHEWS: So how can it be...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What abuse are you concerned about, Gene?

ROBINSON: Well, I -- look, I`m...

MATTHEWS: Let`s say it`s a murky case. It`s a cleric. It`s a -- just a
propagandist, a Tokyo Rose type. If it`s that, you wouldn`t go along with
that.

ROBINSON: Number one, you can have the highest regard for the people in
the White House now President Obama, John Brennan. You can -- - and -- but
you can realize that they`re only going to be there for three more years.

And we`re setting precedents. This is the way warfare is going to be.
This is the way counterterrorism is going to be. This is -- this is a
weapon. They make the point that this is a flexible, very useful, valuable
weapon that...

MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with trusting the judgment of people around Obama
and not trusting the judgment or the values of people around, say, Dick
Cheney?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... judgments all the time.

ROBINSON: You can`t take it back, though.

CORN: Yes. But what you need...

MATTHEWS: You can`t?

CORN: If you give the power to...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: If you give a power to this president, then you`d expect the next
president to have some more powers.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: So you need something to frame. And I would say that the case about
the American citizens is really kind of an outlier. It`s going to happen
from time to time. That`s not the core of this. I commend everybody to
read the front page story today by "The New York Times" about the use of
drones in attacking non-American...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go the difference...

CORN: Because -- because...

MATTHEWS: ... between an American drone attack and a SEAL attack? What`s
the difference? A manned attack and an unmanned attack, what`s the
difference?

CORN: Well...

MATTHEWS: Are there less collateral damage but there`s more Americans
getting killed, obviously (INAUDIBLE)

CORN: Well, it would depend. If you read "The New York Times" story this
morning, it talks about instances where clerics who wanted to work with the
United States got killed in the same attack, and the amount of resentment
that`s being engendered...

MATTHEWS: So what do we do?

CORN: ... in these areas. If you come -- you know -- what do you do?
Well, perhaps in some cases, you have to put more of your own blood at risk
perhaps and go in in a way...

MATTHEWS: With a SEAL attack.

CORN: ... with a SEAL attack, where there is less possibility of getting
it wrong or having collateral damage. And the other thing that...

MATTHEWS: How would you judge that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re sitting here.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What would you do if you were president or a commander-in-chief,
same thing, or general, for example, or CIA director, and you had to
choose. If we send in 20 guys, we`re going to lose 5 or 10. If we use a
drone, we`ll probably kill five family members. I mean, how do you make
those decisions?

CORN: I think -- well, you make those -- commanders make those decisions
all the time, and they`re damn difficult to make. But if you look at
what`s happening in Yemen now, you have whole villages that literally watch
the drones for days above them. And they see them as signals and messages
of American power or arrogance, and they realize they`re going to come down
and strike somebody there. And it may hit them, as well.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: And that has a real potential...

MATTHEWS: Where`s that...

CORN: ... for blowback.

MATTHEWS: ... happening right now?

CORN: In Yemen.

MATTHEWS: Yemen.

CORN: And you got to weigh those things in, and it`s hard. Sometimes you
have to do the dirty work...

MATTHEWS: I like the way you laid that out. Gene?

ROBINSON: I`m somewhat less concerned about what has happened today than
what`s going to happen in the future. And I really think that`s -- so my
issue is not so much that the decision was made to go after Awlaki, who --
who clearly...

MATTHEWS: What should be the protocol?

ROBINSON: Well, I think the...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... what they do in the White House is fine, but I think there
should be a court, something like the FISA court, which can -- look, as a
practical matter, it`s going to rubber-stamp most of what the White House
wants to do.

MATTHEWS: I know.

CORN: But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... like going to a judge for a warrant.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: There can be -- there can be an outlier. There can be a case in
which -- in which...

CORN: Well, the interesting thing...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... a dispassionate observer decides that, you know, this is --
this is not...

MATTHEWS: It`s too close.

ROBINSON: ... fairly -- right, this is too close a call. And I would just
like...

CORN: But the other thing...

ROBINSON: ... another pair of eyes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You would like to have a dialogue, where somebody says, Are you
sure there`s an actual terrorist plot at hand here? They`re undertaking
something.

CORN: Is your intelligence...

MATTHEWS: Would that be your standard?

ROBINSON: Well, no. Look, there`s a whole discussion in the memo...

MATTHEWS: What`s imminence mean?

ROBINSON: ... about imminence...

MATTHEWS: What`s imminence mean?

ROBINSON: ... and what does imminence mean.

CORN: Yes, yes.

ROBINSON: And I get that imminence doesn`t mean, you know, the hijackers
are boarding the planes, OK? It`s -- it`s -- it`s way ahead of that, so --
there`s -- there`s some wiggle room there...

CORN: There`s a benefit to having a FISA court, too, because I know people
who worked on the FISA court, because it makes the people coming to the
court -- this is when you get wiretaps, secret wiretaps. It makes them do
their job better.

MATTHEWS: They have to meet standards.

CORN: They have to meet certain standards and...

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I like this. We`re raising a lot of questions here. One of
them, is there an actual terror attack at hand here, afoot? Is it an
American involved? And how do you trade off civilian casualties,
collateral damage, if you want to call it that, casualties, and American
casualties?

Look, Republican congressman Mike Rogers, who`s chair of the House
Intelligence Committee, defended the president today, and he`s, of course,
a Republican. He told Andrea Mitchell that Anwar al Awlaki deserved to be
taken out -- I don`t like that phrase -- killed is the word, despite being
an American, since he had recruited, trained and financed terrorists to
kill Americans.

And he countered the criticism that there`s no oversight of the program.
Let`s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: This is somebody who had said that he
didn`t want his U.S. citizenship anymore. He had officially joined al
Qaeda. Al Qaeda had declared war on the United States.

What they were saying is once you`ve made that choice, you don`t longer get
the protections that you would. I mean, if you`re -- if you`ve joined the
enemy overseas, you`ve joined the enemy overseas, and we`re going to fight
the enemy overseas.

We do have oversight into it. I knew about those operations, the targeting
sets, all of that leading up to it, including very shortly thereafter. And
I review all of the air strikes that we use under this title of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a good interview, for Andrea to get that guy. He`s
clear as a bell. He says once the guy`s a turncoat and it`s obviously
manifestly so, it`s an easier case for us, right?

CORN: Well...

MATTHEWS: It`s easier for us.

CORN: It is. But it`s not just about policy. It is about procedures.
And so the memo yesterday had a lot of troubling aspects to it, as we
talked about yesterday throughout the network. And so if you want to do
these things and make a good -- if you can make a good argument...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... then you should have a good procedure that reinforces that so
there is somewhat of a semblance of rule of law.

MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, John Brennan -- couldn`t happen to (ph) a bigger (ph)
time, it`s right on...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... hit on this a lot tomorrow in the hearing?

ROBINSON: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: ... hear a lot about this on the hearings. I don`t necessarily
think he`ll get beat up that much, but people will ask questions they ought
to ask. He has talked about this publicly to the extent that he can talk
about it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: There`s one...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: There`s one big issue, though...

ROBINSON: He is described by people in the White House as in many ways a
restraining...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`d trust you running a FISA court.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I would. I`m not sure just some judge who`s doing family court
gets...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to know the person has tremendous sensitivity about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... what America needs for its defense and what we need to
protect our Constitution. Both.

CORN: Yes. It`s just -- it`s just having an ombudsman-like person...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... overseeing this, who gets to say, You know what? Bring me
better intelligence. Let`s take a second look.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: Let`s double check. And in some administrations, you can trust them
perhaps more than in others. So it`s good to have that independent look.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I`d like to see a strong leash on Dick Cheney...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I know you would.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Eugene Robinson.

ROBINSON: He`ll be back!

MATTHEWS: Smart thinking, good analysis, and you got a good briefing
today. And David Corn, you don`t need a briefing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: When we come back, the Republican Party`s rebuilding year, like
on a football team. We got Joe Scarborough joining us because he`s been
trying to do this for -- I listen to him in the morning. He is struggling
with this, to rebuild that party.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, if the Postal Service gets its way, it won`t be getting
mail to you on Saturday anymore. The postmaster general made the
announcement today. It`s expected to save $2 billion a year. Why wouldn`t
it save money? We`re not getting something. But the decision has touched
off a fight in Congress, as well it should. Republicans want to cut costs,
but Democrats worry that jobs will be slashed. If the plan goes forward,
Saturday delivery would end this August.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. In football, they call it a
rebuilding year. It`s when the coaches and the school fathers know they`ve
graduated just too many seniors and have too many untested freshmen on the
returning team.

Could we say the post-Mitt Romney Republicans are in the same boat, that
they don`t expect to win soon, at least not if Hillary runs, but do need to
rebuild their party for the long haul? In fact, is there a danger out
there right now that if the Republicans don`t clean up their image, they`re
headed toward years of defeat in presidential elections?

Well, look at the proposals we`re seeing right now. Karl Rove wants to
keep the fringies from winning nomination for the U.S. Senate. Eric Cantor
wants to go small bore, focus on things, like Clinton did with school
uniforms, and tell college students the jobs picture out there in their
major might be a little boo tough.

And what about the gun issue? Should the party stick with the NRA or pull
a Sister Souljah and tell Wayne LaPierre to go get a real job?

Bottom line, how can a party that`s been built over the decades on the
people who`ve left the Democrats abandon those issues that attracted the
rural South and the West people and the miners and the ranchers and the
religious right and the gun owners and the people furious about illegal
immigration and the cultural conservatives generally? How do you ban those
people and still keep a party?

Well, tonight, an expert, a passionate believer that politics can get
better, my colleague, Joe Scarborough.

So there`s the wide-open question. How do you keep this huge tent the
Republican Party has built in the last 30 or 40 years, with people from the
South, the West, the miners, the ranchers, the religious right, all those
people that have decided the Republican Party`s their natural home, and yet
you have people on the fringe that are costing you your image?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Well, you`ve got to stand up to
people on the fringe. You know, when parties go extreme, they get roundly
defeated. It happened to Democrats in 1984. It happened to the Republican
neocons in 2006. It happened in the off-year elections back in 2010.
Americans thought Democrats went too far to the left, and they punished
them in almost historic proportions in that mid-term election.

But you know, 2012, Republicans got punished because they were the party of
Todd Akin instead of the party of Colin Powell. They were the party of
Richard Mourdock instead of being the party of George H.W. Bush.

This is party that Colin Powell wanted nothing to do with, despite the fact
a guy like Colin Powell is absolutely necessary if you`re going have two
wings of a Republican Party that can win national elections.

Chris, we`ve lost five out of the last six popular votes in presidential
races. And a lot of the reason why is because we`ve had a lot of
discordant voices on the right that are too extreme to those very people
you were talking about that first left the Democratic Party because they
became too extreme starting in 1968.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the leadership issue. And let`s take
something like the gun issue. I think the gun issue is very tough. I am
despondent to the point of believing that, first of all, there are so many
guns in existence right now, I don`t know how you stop the waterfall that`s
been going on for generations (INAUDIBLE) all those guns out there in
existence.

Wayne LaPierre -- he took some heat on FOX News over the group`s Web video
that mentioned the president`s daughters. Let`s listen to this issue (ph)
because I think some people are probably going to say, You know, Wayne
LaPierre -- he`s still got the hammerlock on people from Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Ohio, right across the country to the far West, except for maybe
California, maybe New York and Connecticut. You don`t want to go to the
war with the NRA on (ph) any time (ph).

What do you make of that? Should they stay arm in arm with the NRA, go
with them on semi-automatics but maybe challenge them on background checks?
I mean, where do you draw the line on the right there?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, there`s some things the Republicans have to do if they
want to play smart. They`re going to have to go after gun trafficking.
There`s a good bipartisan bill on the House floor.

And Republicans need to get on board on that, or they`re going to be
punished, even in the off-year elections. They need to get on board when
it comes to universal registration. Wayne LaPierre supported that in 1999.
And guess what? Ninety-one percent of Americans today in 2013 agree with
the Wayne LaPierre that said that in 1999

MATTHEWS: On background checks, on background checks.

SCARBOROUGH: Background -- yes. I`m sorry, universal background, not...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don`t get started with registration. You will pay for that
tomorrow morning.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I am actually paying for it right now. People just fell
out of the bed.

No, it was -- but universal background checks is something that 91 percent
of Americans support. It`s something that Republicans need to embrace.
And if the Republicans do just those two things, they can say they`re
responding not only to what`s happened in Sandy Hook, but what`s happening
right now in Chicago every night, what`s happening across America every
night.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Here`s one way the two parties -- let me try this by you. It seems to me
the two party play roles. I used to years ago write about the mommy and
the daddy party. You can`t talk like that anymore, obviously. It`s not
true, but the idea the Democrats were good on health care and education and
child development and Republicans were good on national defense and law and
order and capital punishment, all the tough guy stuff.

But it seems like the two parties still have advantages in what they can do
that the other party can`t do. Can`t the Republican Party put teeth in an
immigration reform bill? There really will be -- there really will be a
work permit of some kind. You really will have guest workers. You really
will have the parts of it that work economically and will actually give
some enforcement power to it, not just the nice stuff of letting people
become citizens over time.

Why don`t the two parties put -- the Republicans put the teeth in, the
Democrats put the bennies in it?

SCARBOROUGH: Yes, it makes sense, doesn`t it?

You can say the same thing about entitlement reform.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: You could say the same thing about how to balance the budget.
You could say the same thing about national defense.

There are things the Republican Party can do to differentiate themselves
from the Democratic Party, but we`re not going to win elections if we
continue to be, like I said before, the party of Todd Akin, the party of
Richard Mourdock, the party of right-wing...

MATTHEWS: Is Karl Rove right? Is Karl Rove right that you have got to be
gatekeepers, not you, because you don`t have the position, but people who
are like party chairs, big fund-raisers?

SCARBOROUGH: Of course. Of course they are.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: But I don`t know that Karl -- I don`t know that Karl Rove
after his performance in 2012 should be the gatekeeper.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH: He was inside the bubble as much as anybody else, so much so
that he melted down on election night. You know, it was almost like trying
to get James Brown off the stage.

You had to keep going out there saying, it`s over, godfather of soul. It`s
over.

MATTHEWS: He made Megyn Kelly into a superstar is all I know. That was
one night that she won the battle.

SCARBOROUGH: She won the battle there. But, no, you need somebody like
Haley Barbour, who understood...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

SCARBOROUGH: ... in `93 and `94 how to rebuild the party. Haley Barbour,
a guy who would came on our show on "MORNING JOE" when we couldn`t get
other people to embrace Olympia Snowe.

And Haley Barbour said, I`m so glad Olympia Snowe is a Republican. I wish
Olympia Snowe were still a Republican, because even on Olympia Snowe`s most
liberal day, he was more conservative than a Vermont Democrat. Chris, this
is what we have to do. It`s pretty simple. We have got to do what we do
in Alabama when it comes to football. We have got to realize it`s about
winning.

This electoral process, it`s not a primal scream therapy. It`s not about
screaming and yelling and talking about all of your resentments and feeling
good about yourself. It`s about what I say every day on the show, not just
winning in Northwest Florida, but winning the suburbs of Philadelphia.

How do you do that?

MATTHEWS: I know.

SCARBOROUGH: You don`t do that by defending the survivalist wing of the
NRA. You don`t do that by debating contraception, which was taken care of
by the court in `65.

You don`t do that by obsessing on small ball. You do it by focusing on
winning. And only people like Haley Barbour, it seems, in this Republican
Party lately have figured out how to do that. We have lost five of the six
last elections when it comes to popular vote, Chris. It`s well past time
for us to get our act together and start obsessing over winning elections
again.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Read all the books you can on Wendell Willkie. I know you`re a
political junkie like me. Read all the books. He`s you.

And what you have just said is Wendell Willkie, the guy who gave Roosevelt
the best fight in the world, who would have beaten anybody else, who I
think defines what you were just talking about, a reasonable man who said,
Hitler`s our enemy. Let`s get ready to fight him, no messing around.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joe Scarborough. It`s great to have you on.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: The morning, tomorrow morning, you start at 6:00 Eastern for
three big hours of "MORNING JOE."

Up next...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Up next -- along with Mika.

Up next: a little spat between the governors of the two biggest states,
California`s Jerry Brown, who I like, and Rick Perry, who -- hmm. They
don`t seem to like each to much, nor they should he.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

A governor`s spat featuring the two big ones, Texas and California. It
started when Rick Perry, remember him, released a radio ad trying to lure
California business owners to Texas.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, AD)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Building a business is tough, but I hear
building a business in California is next to impossible. This is Texas
Governor Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses. Come
check out Texas.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, dubbed Perry`s
$24,000 TV ad the smallest entry into the media market of California. I
think it is. He also said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s not a burp. It`s barely a fart.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: His word, not mine. It`s not the first time Jerry Brown has
taken guff from newer kid on the block. Last year, Chris Christie of
Jersey told California voters they had picked an old retread for governor.

Well, Brown made him an offer he could only refuse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: There`s nothing wrong with being a little retread. I mean, you`re
-- not as much hair.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I have slowed down a little bit, but I have to tell you I ran three
miles in 29 minutes two nights ago.

I hereby challenge Governor Christie to a three-mile race, a pushup
contest, and a chin-up contest.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BROWN: I have no doubt of the outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, next, ready to meet the New York assemblyman who missed
the recent memo on how not to talk about gun control?

The story begins with this very specific request from the Anti-Defamation
League -- quote -- "While Americans are entitled to have strong opinions,
there is also language that is inappropriate and offensive in any such
discussion. The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something
akin to what Hitler`s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up
to the second world war. Here`s Steve McLaughlin yesterday the run-up to
World War II is historically inaccurate and offensive."

In other words, stop saying that gun control advocates are somehow on par
with Adolf Hitler.

Well, here`s New York Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin yesterday frustrated
with how quickly New York`s gun control bill was passed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MCLAUGHLIN (R), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: We`re told basically to
shut up and vote. And that`s what this is all about. Just don`t question
it. Just vote.

That`s basically the message here. If that`s not dictatorial, I don`t know
what it is. Hitler would be proud. Mussolini would be proud of what we
did here. Moscow would be proud. But that`s not democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. A few hours later, McLaughlin released
a video apology, calling his statement an honest mistake.

Well, finally, Republicans refusing to attend President Obama`s State of
the Union address. Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, for example, typically
stays in his office during the speech hooked up to his Twitter account.

Well, here`s a new one. Where will New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce be
during the president`s address? Well, his announcement yesterday -- quote
-- "Public hearing on the chicken is the same day as the State of the
Union. It`s more important to be in New Mexico standing with you."

Well, Pearce will be attending an event on whether to add a certain species
of chicken to the endangered species list.

I wonder who scheduled that baby?

Up next: the biggest uh-oh moments from last year`s presidential election,
the moments where -- the candidates themselves and their top staffers would
rather forget.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow turns around for the day, ending up seven points, the S&P basically
flat. Nasdaq fell by three.

Disney shares hit an all-time high earlier, following a better-than-
expected earnings report on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the cable operator Liberty
Global is buying Virgin Media for $16 billion.

And Green Mountain shares, coffee maker, they were down nearly 10 percent.
After-hours, they have come bouncing back a little bit. Earnings came in,
in line, but its sales forecast disappointed.

And that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, we may have just seen President Obama inaugurated a second time. Of
course, we did. But here at HARDBALL, we`re still reminiscing about the
2012 election campaign, whether it was the carpet bombing of Newt Gingrich
in the Iowa airwaves or Romney`s infamous 47 percent comments, which I
think cost him the election, or the disastrous first debate for President
Obama which didn`t cost him the election.

Well, last night in Chicago, our own Chuck Todd got the inside scoop from
campaign operatives of both sides who shared what they called the uh-oh
moments. They had a different word for it. But we will call it the uh-oh
moments of the election.

Let`s start with the Republican primaries. Top Romney advisers described
the points at which they thought, uh-oh. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, FORMER SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The "O.S." moment
for me, anyway, was South Carolina. It put Newt in the driver`s seat for a
period of time and forced us to go into Florida.

MATTHEW RHOADES, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There were some big
states that cost a lot of money to put up on TV. And so there were certain
moments in our campaign where we -- we took our -- our -- our bank down
close to zero.

BETH MYERS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The night that we lost Denver
or Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, because it was just -- it was totally
O.S. because we had, like, this is another month of this, really?

STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Losing Michigan
would not have been a positive experience. We went into it 10 down, and it
was a very expensive state. And it was a state that had a lot of symbolic
ghosts. And it was really hand-to-hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here we are. To walk down memory lane with us, Joan
Walsh. She`s Salon`s editor at large and MSNBC political analyst. And
Michael Crowley, he`s deputy managing bureau chief for "TIME" magazine.

Let`s go to, Joan.

This is kind of fun because it`s schadenfreude. It`s joy through others`
tragedy, of course.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And everybody likes that.

But here you have like a butterfly collection, and each page with
flattened-out butterflies of things that went wrong. And I have to be
reminded here the first sign that Romney wasn`t such a great candidate for
president was he -- was losing consistency to people like Newt Gingrich and
Rick Santorum...

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... who know one would have ever thought of running for
president, and still could never get into their heads they could imagine
them as president.

And yet Republican primary and caucus voters were choosing them, rather
than this good-looking guy who had all the credentials. Something must
have been wrong with him.

WALSH: Right.

And, listening to that, watching his advisers, it`s like they never really
registered that. First of all, as you said, they carpet bombed Newt. So
the fact that Newt came back and hit them pretty hard should have been
expected.

MATTHEWS: Like Freddy Krueger.

WALSH: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Newt came back like Freddy Krueger, like he always does, seemingly.

But the thing is that Newt and Rick Perry, our old friend, did unveil the -
- the Bain attacks. And they did Obama`s work for him on one hand, but
there was also a way to say, OK, Rick Perry is not going to win and Newt
Gingrich isn`t going to win. But they are both revealing something
disturbing about our candidate, and we better get a story ready. We better
figure out how to counter that.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: And they never figured out how to counter it until -- up until,
including Election Day.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And then Obama took advantage of it.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, one winning strategy for the Obama campaign and an uh-oh
moment for the team Romney was to define Romney early, when he was still in
primary mode. So, while the Romney campaign was raising tons of cash in
the late spring and early summer, they were legally barred from using it
until the general election.

Take a look at how this came together, Obama going after Romney, Romney
unable to respond because of election law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RHOADES: During this period, we were raising a lot of money, but it wasn`t
all money that we could immediately send out the door.

MYERS: Our donors would call say, well, why aren`t you up on TV? And it
was like, well, let me explain it to you, what money we can use. It was
very frustrating to us.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I think probably one of
the significant decisions we made was to bet on the front end of the
campaign.

In the month of October, ads mean much less, because there`s so much
coverage. Debates are so dominant, and that we had an imperative, which
was to define the race and frankly to define Mitt Romney before the
conventions, and that, you know, it was better to -- it was Larry`s
proposition to bet on -- take money out of September and October, put it
into May, June, and July. And so the other big thing that happened in June
was we started running ads about Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So one thing, Michael -- it`s one thing to say that you spent a
lot of money and time in the beginning defining him as some rich guy who
doesn`t care about people. But then when he came along and completed the
alley-oop play by saying 47 percent...

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Right.

MATTHEWS: ... he underwrote every nickel they had spent: You`re right. I
am an elitist.

CROWLEY: Well, an interesting point about this, Chris, is that there has
been some political science research -- a guy named John Sides, I think --
who looked at the polling, and he says too much has been made of the idea
that the Obama campaign was hitting Romney in the spring and summer, that
the numbers were actually pretty stable.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: And Romney -- but I think actually what they did was they kind of
set up -- as you say, they kind of dug a trap that he ended up walking
into.

So did they decide the race? Did they crush and destroy Romney in that
interregnum before Romney was really able to start spending his own money
because of campaign finance restrictions?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CROWLEY: Because he couldn`t spend until he had the nomination. No, they
didn`t completely destroy him. But what they did was they set him up. And
he just walked right into --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, let me give you a better amount of (INAUDIBLE) the alley-
hoop play. You know the alley-hoop? That`s when one of the players throws
the ball up high over the net and this tall guy, the guy at the post, he
jumps up in the air and stuffs that baby down from on high and makes sure
everybody sees it. It`s great.

Anyway, who can forget that first debate? That`s one you and I can`t
forget in Denver, Joan, when the president`s -- here`s a nice world --
lackluster performance his supporters and gave me practically a disaster in
my brain.

Let`s take a another look at Mitt Romney. He might have made a lot of
Obama supporters say, uh-oh. It didn`t hurt his poll numbers though
according to Jim Messina. Take a look, the disastrous performance by the
president in that first debate apparently didn`t register heavily in the
polling. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISER: It changed the structure of
the race and we saw that our polling. People who may have closed their
mind to Governor Romney suddenly reopened it. And it made for a much
better October than September, because in September we were dealing with
the fallout from the 47 percent video.

JIM MESSINA, OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: What we saw in our internal numbers
was they got back what they lost from the 47 percent. But we never went
behind. We never went down less than two -- never went -- our lead never
shrunk less than two and a half points. We were pretty sure that we were
OK in the entire time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Joan and Michael, both, it`s a key question. I didn`t
know this. I thought Obama had dropped below after that bad performance.

Is that your reading? He never really lost the lead even though he had a
bomb of a night in Denver?

JOAN WALSH, SALON: Well -- I mean, I`m not going to call Jim Messina a
liar. The polls I looked at it in the swing states, he did lose a lot of
ground. Maybe he didn`t fall behind, but he came very close. When you`re
within the margin of error, you have a lot of anxious people.

And I think, you know, lots of national Democrats and local Democrats are
going to say, you know, we probably spent a lot of money and a lot of
energy that we would have spent on, you know, House races or Senate races.
He took a beating in the polls. Maybe didn`t fall under.

MATTHEWS: Maybe Messina just want to go after the boss on that one. But I
think he`s wrong and you`re right. I`m right. I think it almost killed
him.

Two more nights like that or one more night like that --

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- he would have lost the race.

Thank you, Michael Crowley from "Time" magazine, the great "Time" magazine.

And thank you, Joan, from "Salon".

Up next, it`s the best news Democrats could hope. Democrats (sic) are once
again turning to the far right to find candidates for the United States
Senate. This time, it`s Congressman Paul Broun, the guy who called
evolution a lie from the pit of hell. He`s running down in Georgia,
probably win down there. That`s good for the D`s.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama`s adding a woman to his cabinet. The president
today nominated Sally Jewell to head the Interior Department. There it is.

Jewell is an unconventional pick, actually. She`s CEO of outdoor sports
retailer REI, which she`s earned national recognition for her management
skills and her work in habitat conservation.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

If you want to appreciate how big a challenge the would-be rebranders of
the Republican Party face, consider this -- the fringies, the characters
who live in the fever swamps of birtherisms who claim President Obama isn`t
an American, isn`t a Christian, who say that global warming is a hoax and
talk about legitimate rape -- well, these people are now the base of the
Republican Party.

Look, one of them is Paul Broun. He`s a Republican congressman from
Georgia who`s decided now to run for the U.S. Senate from that state. And
that`s a gift many people believe to Democrats. His extreme right wing
views just might give them, the Democrats, a real chance to win a seat in a
very red Georgia.

Well, joining me now is the genius and co-creator of "The Daily Show," Lizz
Winstead, and Lauren Ashburn, who`s editor-in-chief of "The Daily-
Download".

I`d like both of you, by the way, to listen to some of Paul Broun`s
greatest hits then I want your reaction. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: Obama himself has zero experience in private
sector. He`s never had a private job. He`s always worked in the public
sector. He thinks government needs to produce everything. Government
needs to control everything. There`s a word for that -- socialism. He`s a
Marxist.

Fellow patriots, we have a lot of domestic enemies of the Constitution and
they`re right down the Mall in the Congress of the United States. And
right down Independence Avenue in the White House of the -- that belongs to
us.

I`ve come to understand all that stuff I was taught about evolution and
embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of
hell. And it`s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught
that from understanding that they need a savior.

It`s not about my ability to hunt, which I love to do. It`s not about the
ability for me to protect my family, my property against criminals, which
we have the right to do. But it`s about -- it`s all about us protecting
ourselves from a tyrannical government of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Well, the challenge, Lizz, for the creative people, and I was
just talking to Joe Scarborough, my friend, about it, is it`s really a
challenge. How do you, having exploited the whacks of the Republican
Party, the people way out there who don`t feel confident in the Democratic
Party and now, don`t feel comfortable in the Republican Party, depending on
their votes, but say you guys can`t run for office because you`re crazy.

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CREATOR, "THE DAILY SHOW": Right.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think people want to vote for a party that wouldn`t
accept them as candidates. Just get an old Groucho Marx line.

WINSTEAD: I also think so. If the Republicans are going to start talking
about, you know, their party evolving, the basic start would be to believe
in Evolution. So when you don`t --

MATTHEWS: I think you`re picking a point here.

WINSTEAD: But this one saying Evolution starts in the pits of hell, I
think, (a), he`s had four wives.

MATTHEWS: So, why he did, this guy, Paul Broun.

WINSTEAD: Four wives. He`s on wife number four.

MATTHEWS: Another family values guy.

(CROSSTALK)

WINSTEAD: Yes, he values many, many families.

And I just -- I don`t understand, it`s like the tone deafness. If you say
you`re going to reinvent your party --

MATTHEWS: So who he`s talking to? He`s talking to somebody in that church
tent, because there are people applauding it. You can`t say they don`t
exist.

LAUREN ASHBURN, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s exactly right. There are people
who like this. There are people -- paleoconservatives, people who are
principled, people who believe that this person is the person to be the
face of the Republican Party. And then you have the Karl Roves, they say
the inside the Beltway guys who are trying to bring it to the middle who
just don`t understand.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WINSTEAD: See, I don`t know about that, because I think when you look --
I`m from Minnesota. And when you look at --

ASHBURN: Minnesota.

WINSTEAD: Right, sure I am. And you have Bachmann and you have him and
you have Steve King in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at Steve King. We`ve got a bite of Steve we should
show because he`s right up there with this menagerie with Paul Broun. Of
course, Broun isn`t alone. Here he is, Steve King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: We have a very, very urban senator, Barack
Obama, who`s decided he`s going to run for president.

We`ve got to stand up and say we`re not going to pay slavery reparations in
the United States Congress. That war has been fought. That was over a
century ago.

Government can sit down and decide to pay reparations with money borrowed
from the Chinese.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: You know, I got to tell you, I may have -- I`m sort of a
Thaddeus Stevens kind of guy, reparations, I think we should have done it
in `38, but it`s (INAUDIBLE) way back in 1860s. But I haven`t heard that
raised as an issue, Lauren. Who is he arguing with?

WINSTEAD: There is 15 bills before Congress right now, Chris, that are
reparations bills. Where have you been?

MATTHEWS: They`ve got to come to a vote. There`s no money to give out.

ASHBURN: But people are still in it. I did a story about how Aetna,
people were after Aetna to make reparations. I mean, this is still in the
news.

WINSTEAD: But I --

MATTHEWS: I think this guy, Steve King, is fighting an old horse here,
riding an old horse.

WINSTEAD: But I think when these guys get out of their bubble of their
districts, and they start running statewide, you cannot tell me in Iowa,
King is up.

ASHBURN: King is up in Iowa.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oddly, let me ask you a simple question. You`re smart. You`re
Karl Rove. Not a good guy, necessarily, but a smart guy. You`re Haley
Barbour, you`re Chris Christie. One of these thoughtful people in the
Republican Party, you could argue.

How are you going to stop these people from running in office if they want
to?

ASHBURN: Cash.

MATTHEWS: How do you stop in the primaries when they`ve got these people
behind them.

ASHBURN: Well, you give more money to another guy. I mean, money talks,
right? If you don`t want this guy to win and you`ve got the Koch brothers,
and you`ve got Ellison (ph) there, well, that`s why they have a PAC, right?

WINSTEAD: Yes. That worked well for Romney. Here`s the deal money can`t
buy you. Authenticity. And I think once these guys give --

MATTHEWS: They`re authentic. I hate to tell you. They`re the real thing.

ASHBURN: They believe that.

WINSTEAD: They`re authentic to a point where -- if you`re authentic in
your rationality, great. You`ll appeal to the irrational people. But when
this guy says, you know, that the Earth was, you know, formed 9,000 years -
- hold on -- 9,000 years ago and we started farming 10,000 years ago, it`s
insane.

ASHBURN: We have to come back to the fact that they have a base. That
people like these have been elected.

WINSTEAD: Exactly. They have --

MATTHEWS: You know, I look at Mourdock, he won. I look at Akin, he won.
I look at O`Donnell, she won. They won. That guy Mike Lee beat Bob
Bennett out in Utah.

You got -- they knocked ff a guy in Indiana. They go around the country --
they tend to win.

ASHBURN: But Rove`s candidates haven`t been doing so well, either.

WINSTEAD: No, neither have NRA candidates, neither have -- neither did
Adelson`s candidates or Koch`s candidates.

MATTHEWS: You know what I want? I want two parties in this country where
can I actually go into the election and decide who to vote for.

ASHBURN: You want the Chris Matthews party.

MATTHEWS: No, I want a party that`s reasonable on both sides. I want a
choice. Not an echo, I want a choice. And that`s why I think that the old
days, the Republicans running people like Eisenhower and reasonable people
like that made a lot of sense and Wendell Willkie and guys like that.
They`re reasonable people.

ASHBURN: But this is a turning point in the Republican Party.

WINSTEAD: You can`t argue whether or not there is evolution.

MATTHEWS: Lizz Winstead, thank you. Thanks for coming here.

ASHBURN: Start believing.

MATTHEWS: Lauren, thank you for coming. See, I have (INAUDIBLE).

Anyway, when we return, let me finish with some thoughts about my Aunt
Agnes, a wonderful and loving aunt that I look up to. Thank you. We`ll be
right back.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

When my brothers and I were young, we had a young teenage girl to look up
to. Our Aunt Agnes was only a half generation ahead of us, our mom`s
youngest sister. She still lived with our grandpop and grandmom. She had
the front room. It`s where she kept her hockey stick and marble back copy
books and other girl stuff. And that room was her room.

And we, brothers, as I said, looked up to her as someone really special.
She took us to movies and to malt shops, which was magical. And sometimes,
she`d be called to be our babysitter.

But again, she was a teenager, kind of a celebrity to us. She`d travel
with friends of her age, all older and much more exciting than any of us.

Aunt Agnes was smart in school. She won a scholarship at Mount Saint
Joseph. She was the row house girl from north Philly taking the subway and
bus up to posh Chestnut Hill. And when she won scholarship to college, she
gave it up. She didn`t want to take it from another girl who needed it
from getting it. She had other plans.

She decided to join a convent to become a sister at St. Joseph, like her
older sister Eleanor. When she told her mother her decision, her mother
said, wait until your father hears of this. What is he going to think of a
second daughter of his joining the convent?

When she told grand pop, he said, do what will make you happy. And she
did.

Well, here they are, the two of them, Aunt Eleanor and Aunt Agnes and their
old habits. Remember them? Mom`s younger sisters.

I was looking through the e-mails I`ve gotten recently from Aunt Agnes and
here`s a typical one from October. It was just after the first
presidential debate when I went ballistic over Obama`s weak performance.
Quote, "On Saturday, I attended a meeting of over 500 sisters. As usual,
during break time, many sisters I don`t know or didn`t know tell me how
much they appreciated HARDBALL."

All of the talk then was about the president`s debate and my, shall we say,
dramatic reaction to that presidential performance.

Well, quote, "Your viewers love your enthusiasm. So whatever show parodied
your presentation missed the positive message." Aunt Agnes was there
talking about how "Saturday Night Live" had lampooned me afterwards.

Well, here she is again. "As usual, though, you were a good sport about
it. And God bless you for your concern for the poor, the weak and the
elderly."

Well, that`s my Aunt Agnes who`s going to heaven.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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